Q&A: Artist Miriam Robson | Living North

Q&A: Artist Miriam Robson

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Miriam Robson art
We chat to environmental artist Miriam Robson ahead of the North Yorkshire Open Studios. We find out what inspires her, how art can be therapeutic and what to expect in her workshop on the beach

Miriam Robson creates art outside using natural materials, drawing mammoth pieces on sandy beaches or building pieces on forest grounds. After she’s finished she’ll photograph it and leave it to be washed away by the tide or biodegrade – and sees it as a good way to learn how to let go.

Did you always want to be an artist?
I suppose I did. I went to a really small village school and our teacher promoted the arts in every subject that we did – I remember getting into it then. My mum was really artistic as well, so I’ve grown up doing it. Eventually, I ended up doing it for my own personal benefit: I found it quite helpful in difficult times. I think I actually forgot about art for a little bit because I ended up doing community arts practice at uni, but once I got there I ended up doing loads of art and I realised it wasn’t the right course for me. So I changed to creative expressive therapies.

What’s that?
There are four different pathways you can take: visual arts – which is what I did – music, dance and movement, and drama. There are students specialising in each one of those pathways all on the same course. It’s about using the arts collectively as a therapeutic tool and a way to aid self-expression. They use it a lot with people who have learning difficulties or mental health problems.

Your pieces aren’t permanent. Does that not make you feel sad?
No and that’s it, you see. It makes it feel more special. Everyone’s always trying to preserve everything and the way I see it, it is practising letting go. You make something that you love, then you let it go. I do take pictures of it and share it, though.

What about your sand art?
I spend hours doing it then I’ll leave and the tide comes in. People can’t get their head around it. I suppose it’s enough to be creative for the sake of being creative. I really like it when I leave it knowing people are going to walk their dogs past this massive thing that’s never going to be there again. It feels like you’re leaving a gift – and I don’t even know who’s going to receive it or even see it. Once when I did it, someone was on the top of a cliff and she came down afterwards and said that she scattered someone’s ashes at the top the year before. It was the first time she’d been back. She looked out and saw this huge sand art below and said that it was really special. 

What is it about nature that inspires you?
I grew up in the countryside so I’m naturally at ease there and I think nature inspires loads of art: all the colours, shapes and textures. I end up doing things that relate to natural processes, things that live and die. I’m quite interested in that. My mum died when I was 21 so I think that relates to a lot of the work that I do now. It probably is still a therapy for me. I remember writing my dissertation a few years ago and feeling like a robot after a while. I spent a day in the woods and remember feeling like myself again as if it just renewed me – it brings me back down to earth.

So this is your first time taking part in the North Yorkshire Open Studios.
Yeah, it’s quite scary actually, exposing yourself and your art to people. But it’s making me have to do stuff like make a website, it’s quite easy to make art and not do anything with it. Really what I want to do is make more of a living being creative. 

I suppose you can’t sell a piece if it’s been washed away.
No, exactly. So I’m making prints and cards and I’m going to run some workshops.

Tell us more about the sand art workshop.
I think I’ll probably split people into groups and get people to come up with their own ideas, and I’ll provide a few for people who aren’t sure. I’ll give them areas to make their own sand art and then I’ll bring it all together. 

What’s your favourite thing about living in Yorkshire?
The range of scenery; the North Yorkshire coast is absolutely beautiful. I love being near enough to the coast to be able to drive.

For more information about the North Yorkshire Open Studios or to book a space on Miriam’s workshop head to www.nyos.org.uk 

Published in: May 2017

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